As the end of the year gets closer, it’s important to start looking ahead to 2018 and make preparations for your business moving forward. The ecommerce landscape is ever-changing, and in order to stay competitive, you need to be on top of the latest trends. Of course, a new year doesn’t mean a complete overhaul of the way things are done, and so a lot of what is to come is simply a continuation of what’s going on now in the online retail marketplace.

However, because of the fast-paced nature of changes in this area, it’s essential that you review what technologies and strategies will be moving to the forefront in the coming year and how your business will be working to integrate those in order to maintain growth and increase profits.

Thorough Integration

As online shopping has gained traction, the technology has improved to provide a smoother and more efficient shopping experience. As a result, that has become what customers expect, and the more seamless the shopping experience, the more likely they are to keep coming back. The flip side of that, of course, is that if you can’t provide an integrated, convenient shopping experience, you’re likely to have fewer completed sales no matter how much traffic you drive to your website.

On a related note, the growth of online selling and the use of multiple devices for the purpose means that it’s important for you to have a complete and consistent presence across all mediums. Having a bare bones mobile site is no longer an option if you want to stay competitive, as customers expect to be able to do everything on their phones that they could if they were sitting in front of a computer.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Another part of creating a smooth customer experience involves automating some of your customer support functions. Advances in artificial intelligence make it possible for you to relatively easily set up chatbots to handle basic customer interactions and questions on your website. Providing this service is becoming a necessity, as its use is more widely adopted, and it makes it more likely you can complete a sale by mitigating any complications encountered along the way.

Voice Search

Voice search is another convenience technology that is permeating the industry, due in part to the fact that it’s now able to return more consistent results. Since customers are used to using this type of technology in other areas of their life as well, including in the car, through their smartphones, and at home, they’re more likely to prefer and use this option when available on your ecommerce site.

Mobile Focus

The share of online shopping done on mobile devices has been steadily increasing, and there’s no reason to think that trend will do anything but continue into 2018. That means having a fully-functional mobile site with a smooth user experience will be more important than ever, and you may want to invest in a storefront app to streamline the process for your customers even further.

Distinguishing Yourself

One of the wonderful things about online retail is the way it allows even the smallest businesses to reach customers across the country, and even around the world. That also means more competition for every sale, however, as customers can easily and quickly do some comparison shopping online to find the best deal on whatever they’re looking for.

With that dynamic at play, it’s becoming more and more important to distinguish yourself from your competition, and this can be done in a variety of ways. Some of these are hallmarks of the retail world like providing great customer service, creating a quality product at a competitive price, and processing orders promptly. Others are unique to the online setting and to this moment in time where social media has carried so many of our normal social interactions into the digital realm.

This makes things like incorporating a story into your selling strategy a more valuable, and even essential, marketing tool. That may take the form of an origin story for a product, or it could mean creating an overarching narrative for your brand. Regardless of the details, though, the important thing is to make it a story that appeals to your customers and that they can connect with on a personal level.

Along the same lines, it’s essential to integrate personalized messages and other elements into your marketing strategy and materials. Thanks to advances in technology, this is another area that you can leverage automation to provide the type of personal touches your customers expect without having to devote a ton of manpower to doing so.

Regardless of the nature of your business, advances in technology will necessarily impact what it takes to compete in 2018 and beyond. The end of the year is the perfect time to look back on the successes and challenges you faced over the previous year and to plan your strategy moving forward, and that strategy should always include the emerging trends like those outlined above that are likely to gain traction and impact markets in the coming year.

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